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The House With Only an Attic and a Basement by Kathryn Maris – review

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Maris’s detailed, hyper-fast poems wittily bridge the gap between the genders

This is the house that Kathryn Maris built: it has “only an attic and a basement”. What does it signify to have a bodiless house? The title is typical of this crisp, funny, lightly disturbing collection. Maris is a mistress of fragile structures. A wit informs her sometimes painful, mannered poems – their affectation a coping strategy. What Women Want is formed by layered futility: the woman’s superstitious initiative rendered null by the husband’s incurious loftiness. It plays with the pointlessness of its subject until the poem becomes the point. The charm of the book is that it is the poems themselves that offer stability. It is they that bridge – where a bridge is possible – the gap between the sexes (“The man in the basement wrote stories about heroin/ the woman in the attic read stories with heroines”). This is the gap that keeps threatening to become a void.

How to Be a Dream Girl Not a Doormat about the “Ex’’ is a particularly satisfying poem: flat-packed with entertaining, wise advice about how to handle the subject of ex-partners:

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